I’M referring to Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, a lawyer who has been given the very difficult job of announcing and defending President Duterte’policies, directives and off-the-cuff remarks which oftentimes raises the eyebrows of ‘manongs and manangs’ in the country but clearly endears him to the majority.
I happened to shake hands with Attorney Roque last May when my family and I visited the famous Misibis Bay Resort in Albay and it was purely an accident. My wife Candy, daughters Kyra and Camille and I were at the beach when I saw a couple and their kids walking towards the beach and immediately recognize one of them.
She was a former colleague at the PNP Press Corps, the beautiful and witty former Channel 9 reporter Myla Reyes who also recognized me. After introducing my family to her, Myla introduced us to her husband, Atty. Harry Roque and their son and daughter.
After exchanging some pleasantries, we all went for a swim, the Roque family clearly enjoying the Misibis Bay resort. It’s nice to see a top government official having a good time with his family, enjoying the sun and the sea, oblivious of the people around him. Later at night, I saw Atty. Roque watching television at the bar without any bodyguards and any VIP treatment but obviously, guests including foreigners recognized the government spokesperson in shorts and plain t-shirt as they smiled and shook his hands after seeing him.
The former Kabayan Party-List representative became President Duterte’s spokesman in October last year with the former Davao City mayor saying he fits his new job to a T because they both have a playful mouth. Shortly after the presidential announcement, Roque said his new position as presidential spokesman will not change his position on the human rights situation on the Philippines.
The presidential spokesman is also known for defending the Philippine National Police’s war on criminality, drugs and corruption as well as its ongoing ‘discipline drive’ or the strict enforcement of city and municipal ordinances including those which prohibits smoking and drinking or loitering half-naked in the streets although the opposition and other critics of the government are making it appear that it is a prelude to martial law and strongly anti-poor since it is targeting so-called ‘tambays’ when it is not.
Roque is really new to the job but everybody knows that being a famous lawyer and later member of Congress has enabled him to develop the skills of an effective spokesperson, having the ability to effectively connect with the audience, either through the media or in person apart from developing messages which he can deliver very well.
Roque received his Master of Laws with Merits from the London School of Economics in 1996, Bachelor of Laws from University of the Philippines in 1990, and Bachelor of Arts (Economics and Political Science) from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor in 1986. He and his team also represented the victims of the 2009 Ampatuan Massacre; the Malaya Lolas, the victims of rape and abuse by the Japanese Imperial Army; and the family of slain transgender Jennifer Laude.
Clearly, he is known for championing the cause of poor Filipinos who have become victims of injustice, whether they are members of the Philippine press or fishermen being ‘bullied’ by Chinese sailors. He also led the successful prosecution of U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Pemberton who was convicted for the killing of Laude and sentenced to suffer 6-12 years in prison.
As a member of the House of Representatives, he co-authored the Free Tuition Bill for students of state universities and colleges as well as the Free Irrigation for Farmers, the Universal Health Care Bill which provides free medicine and hospitalization for Filipinos and the proposal to provide free lunch for public elementary students.
The other day, Roque bared that the rate of those who fell victim to crimes fell a full percentage point lower, and by about 200,000 families less, from the previous survey Social Weather Stations or SWS conducted in December 2017. “Crimes continue to decline. We welcome the latest Social Weather Station survey showing 6.6 percent of families reporting victimization by any of the crimes within the past six months—down from December 2017’s 7.6 percent,” he said.
Less families also reported being victimized by break-ins, from 3.4 percent or 790,000 in December to 2.2 percent or 516,000. The March survey also found that most victims of street robbery were women, at 59 percent — 19 points higher than the figure reported in December. Again, that’s less than the men who reported being robbed on the street, town to 38 percent from 52 percent in December. Four in 10 Filipinos also believe many drug addicts live in their neighborhood, compared to 42 percent in December. These are positive news which doesn’t easily attract the eyes of government critics but Roque will continue delivering the good message, no matter what.